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Front end "uneveness", girthiness, and an "elbow" gall - Argh! [Long]

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  • Front end "uneveness", girthiness, and an "elbow" gall - Argh! [Long]

    Well, first off, I have my farrier coming to check out the mare in 36 hours – he couldn’t come out earlier. He’s also my dressage instructor and a top notch chiro/homeopath and has fixed more horses in the region then I can count. He keeps my horse/s sound and happy! I’m just looking for folks’ opinions in the interim – no one likes just waiting for the answers!

    I took my mare out for a ride on Tuesday and she’s been “off” ever since. Brought her out of the paddock (lives in rocky turnout 24/7, rides on what she lives on, shod on all fours) and brushed and saddled her up. Same girth (Pressure-Eze) as always, same hole as always. Buckles clear the elbows, horse was immaculately clean.

    I walked the mare on the ground in a small circle, felt she looked off. Turned her out in a small arena, and free lunged her (under saddle, no headgear). She looked just fine, except for being a little tight/tense in the neck – as I had no lunge gear I was not in a position to help the mare through this tightness, and I was more concerned with seeing how she moved. She did a lap or two before I quit her, bridled her up and mounted up. We went about a km down the road (grass belt, no rocks) and I felt she was “off” again. I jumped off, trotted her in hand up both the grass belt and on the blacktop, and again she looked just fine. Puzzled by this stage I remounted, and we walked a few ks down to the local grassy park (doubles as my arena). We worked for an hour, and she was just lovely – no off feeling, no tenseness, no “girthy canter” (this is important) and picked up all her leads – great ride.

    Rode back home on the buckle at a walk. Literally as we went to turn down the drive, the horse bobbed and went off. I jumped straight off and again trotted her in hand – she was just ever so slightly off. I led her home and unsaddled her. At this point I was more concerned with her feet, so I didn’t pay any attention to her gear – I just whipped everything off, chucked a halter on and got a long rein. I asked her to trot in a circle, and she was quite tight and bobbly. Unsound. Reeled her in and hosed her off – paying lots of attention to her legs. I turned her out in the small arena and brought her a feed. As I walked up to her, I saw blood on her left side elbow.

    Somehow, she’s rubbed a small hole right on the point on her elbow – not on the belly or behind the elbow, but on the point itself. The hole was incredibly red and raw and SORE. I bathed it in saline, then sprayed betadine and put some antiseptic cream on it.

    By this stage the mare is quite agitated, even a little mean. She has been quite grouchy ever since – very marey. Give her a carrot and she’s sweet as again, but there is definitely something bugging the mare. Dealing with this behaviour usually requires a few “move your feet” exercises on the ground, but as she’s uneven, this makes her grumpier and so I don’t do them. So now I have a bitchy mare with sore feet and a sore girth and who cheers up for a carrot and growls every time I have to ointment up the gall.

    So right now I have two problems on the same day: an elbow gall, and a bobbly gaited horse. Could they be related?

    I can’t find heat or tenderness in the hoof, though when lunging to the left (the sore elbow on the inside) the mare appears to be more tense, and steps quite short with the offside foreleg – like she’s hurrying over the inside leg. Mind you, to me – who is hopeless at picking lameness in a leg – she looks a bit gimpy on both fronts. She was just shod on Saturday, rested on Sunday, sound on Monday.

    My guess would be that she has a stone bruise. It’s very rocky here, and we are going through a wet-dry change in season, so the horses are often in wet mud one day and dry hard conditions the next three. One horse has an abscess and another is a bit sore-footed. Both of those horses are barefoot. Mine is shod, and has been fine through the worst of the weather this year. Coincidental that she comes up with lameness the same day she galls for the first time ever?

    Some additional info to compound the issue:

    I found some very, very slight skin irritation – like itchy fly bites – in the girth area behind the elbow. Same place on both sides, and ONLY in a small area where the hair changes direction. A 4-5cm long whorl where the hair is longer and fluffier. She’s very, very skin sensitive in the back region, but never galled before. The irritated places didn’t gall or rub.

    Girth was clean. Same girth, same holes as I have used for a while now. Girth designed to NOT cause girthiness. Girth has a “border binding”, rather then being a tubular (no edge) girth. Saddle pad borders have caused rubs before, so I’ve gotten hold of a tubular girth to use once the mare heals up.

    The mare is a bit girthy – sometimes when she’s been girthed up (slowly, hole at a time), she’ll grunt and close her eyes, and stretch backwards like a dog, so that her girth is almost on the ground. It’s quite sudden, like she’s found herself out of breath, and often jumps back to her feet like she didn’t know she’d almost lay down in the first place.

    Very rarely, she’ll have a bit of a grump when being girthed – usually when she’s in season! She IS in season currently. A firm “hey! Don’t do that!” usually clears the issue right up.

    So, long saga over – I’m guessing at this point that the mare has a stone bruise, and the gall is a separate PITA issue. What piques my interest is that the timing presents itself as though the GALL is causing the front end lameness.

    Has anyone ever had experience with girth galls, or girth issues – sore muscles, misaligned ribs – causing front end lameness?

    The gall is past the red stage now, and is just a little baldy/scabby and not so painful. On Wednesday, I touched the gall (24 hours old) and she near leapt in the air with pain/fright – ran back, busted her rope in panic. Must of hurt something chronic. The elbow was quite hot and looked a bit “capped” – this also makes me wonder if the lameness is in the discomfort from the elbow (though I did feel she was “ a bit off” before she galled, gahhh)

    Until my farrier aka magician comes around with his magic eye and the hoof testers then I won’t know for sure.
    Recently, the mare has developed a habit of holding her breath and “throwing a hissy” when asked to pick up the canter without sucking back into the transition. This is a new area of training for both mare and myself, and she has had a few issues to work through. I really took the mare back to basics and got the trot really settled before working on soft into the transition to canter – Tuesday’s ride was the best ever. No breath-holding, no sucking back, no stress. I’m now wondering if the mare has had soreness in the girth region for a while now, and that the anxious habit of holding her breath was hurting her girth region, and compounding her “into canter” stress.

    Tuesday, post gall, she near took my arm off when I tried to see if she was sore in the girth region (avoiding the gall). Wednesday, it was “belly scratch? Oh, whatever” – so no, she isn’t THAT sore in the region to touch, but maybe the girth hurts her a little more then I can?

    Sorry this is so long, but it’s quite a puzzle – especially as I’m missing several pieces, and several others don’t match up!

    If anyone can relate to any part of the story – stone bruises, galls, girthiness, or the fact that horses LOVE to go lame before the first comp of the year (WHYYY!!!!) – then please, contribute!

    I haven’t been doing anything for the bruise, apart from spraying betadine on the hoof and painting the sole with Stockholm tar – mostly because I don’t know if it IS a bruise (therefore soaking a hoof unnecessarily), or WHICH hoof it’s in. I read someone uses a mixture of Sore No More (unavail. In Australia) and iodine on stone bruises – wonder if I can make a home version? It's not getting better or worse, she's just "uneven".

    On the gall I’ve been scrubbing her girth region with betadine – get rid of that girth itch in the whorls – daily, then applying Lotagen on the wounds. Today I used Potties White over the Lotagen to see if giving the elbow a little “lube” might help. Potties is our main staple for treating rainscald scabs here. I applied it this morning and she was a lot more comfortable with me touching the area this evening.

  • #2
    Take a deep breath. You are doing the right thing to wait and see what you farrier\instructor\chiro says.

    Galls can be very painful this could easily be what was bothering her. Get a different girth and\or a sheepskin girth cover to prevent future galls (if the girth is the problem). I like to use wonder dust on galls to dry them out so they scab ASAP.

    It's great that you are so in tune with your horse and are paying such close attention to her. When in doubt get a professional opinion (which you are) and follow your gut (though I know it's sometimes tough to stay on the sane side of paranoia ). Your horse is lucky to have you. If your not satisfied with the healing or opinion from your instructor get a vet out for a lameness exam - it can give you some peace of mind, no matter the results.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks Donkey, for your insightful reply.

      I have great news! The mare is now "not lame". Not 100% "sound", but my instructor feels that the issue is muscular and not in the hoof - also the BACK right, not the front left as I thought!

      This is interesting as the mare's left hind is her weaker leg - it points outwards a little, and she has had stifle issues with this leg back in the day before the horse was built up with good training (read: when I couldn't ride for nuts, and the poor mare was a strung out mess). The mare has always "favoured" this leg - not in unsoundness, but more in the fact that she isn't as strong in that leg compared to the right hind.

      My instructor feels she has been overcompensating with the right hind, and she's now a little sensitive on it. I rode her under instruction today, and with gentle work she warmed up and out of whatever unevenness I couldn't see and my instructor could! Being aware of the mare's weaker leg means that we can tailor the training to help strengthen the leg.

      The unsoundness I could see was most likely caused by the very sore gall on the mare's LEFT elbow (so you can imagine just how sore the mare was on the LF-RH diagonal when I first posted my original question). The gall was aggressively treated with antiseptic and zinc cream, and is now just a bald, flaky patch on her elbow. I used vaseline on the patch before the ride, plus a new, thinner girth with no edging - this worked really well! NO girthy issues. How strange, the so-called humane girth caused the issues, the regular girth didn't illicit any tension at all.

      No hoof soreness was found. The mare was comfortable on both reins at the w-t-c, finishing more sound then when we began. When I lunged her before I rode, *I* couldn't see any issues - the tension and bobbing was gone. Mr Magic Eyes could see a little bit of favoring on the hind leg though.

      Oh, and the grumpiness? Guess what - she was having a "season peak" at that very time (talk about everything crashing at once!). She's back to being her sweet self again

      So nice to be back in the saddle.